Erdogan expresses willingness to meet with Assad
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said he would meet with Bashar al-Assad if the Syrian leader had attended a summit being held in Uzbekistan, pro-government Hurriyet newspaper said on Friday.
Columnist Abdulkadir Selvi, known for his close relations with the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) said Erdogan made these remarks at a top party meeting on Monday.
"I wish Assad had come to Uzbekistan, I would have spoken to him. But he can't come there," Selvi quoted Erdogan as saying, who is visiting Uzbekistan for Shanghai Cooperation Organization's summit during which he is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"He went to war with rebels to maintain his own power. He chose to protect his own power. He thought of protecting the areas he controlled. But he couldn't protect large areas," Erdogan said, according to Selvi.
Erdogan’s words coincided with reports saying Russia promoted talks between the neighboring countries in a new sense of urgency as the Kremlin wants to focus more on Ukraine.
Sources said Turkey's intelligence chief has been to Damascus multiple times over the last few weeks and held meetings with his Syrian counterpart.
Turkey backed Syrian armed opposition since the beginning of the civil war in a bid to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad whom Erdogan called a terrorist at the time and said there could be no peace in Syria with him in office.
But after meeting with the Russian President twice last month, Erdogan shifted his tone distinctively and said he could never rule out dialogue and diplomacy with Syria.